The Germans attack at Verdun and wreak havoc on the Franco-British plans for the Somme offensive. As the Mill on the Meuse pulls ever more French soldiers into the fire, the British Expeditionary Force takes on a larger role in the coming battle. By the end of May GEN Sir Douglas Haig confirms the BEF will lead the Somme attack on 1 July 1916.
The weeks go by and while stating their goals remain the same, the British and French leadership each plan different operations for the same battle. One army looks to carry out a battle of attrition. The other army plans to break through the German trench line and restart the war of movement.
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1915 saw none of the major offensives that rocked the rest of the Western Front, but it was not a quiet sector of the line. Despite the French and Germans having a “live-and-let-live” policy that didn’t keep them from killing each other with exploding underground mines and regular infantry battles.
Towards the end of 1915 GEN Joseph Joffre of the French Army worked on coordinating a strategy among the Allies that would see them attacking the Germans and Austro-Hungarians at the same time in order to wear them out. From this, the idea of the Battle of the Somme was born.
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In the opening months of World War One war came to the Somme departement of France as the Allies and the Germans sought to outflank each other during the “Race to the Sea.” The hasty trench lines scratched out in autumn 1914 would largely be the same front line that would be assaulted on July 1st, 1916.
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